Optimized Webmedia's Ultimate SEO Guide 2017
This in-depth SEO article can serve as a great guide and resource for marketers, SEO practitioners, or anyone that’s interested to learn more about how, using best practices in SEO, they can rank their websites high on search engines such as Google.
At the core of SEO, there is what we call the “5 Pillars of Tactical SEO” – They serve as the basis of the many moving parts impact how well a website ranks on search engines. Having these SEO processes in place is important to ensure SEO success, however, it’s important to note that since every website is different, each SEO project has its own unique custom SEO strategy plan that is encompassed within the 5 Pillars of Tactical SEO:
I. SEO Site Audit
II. On-site SEO
III. Local SEO
IV. On-page SEO
V. Off-site SEO
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
SEO is defined as the digital marketing discipline which focuses on growing online visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results. It entails both the technical and creative tasks which are required to help improve website rankings, increase awareness within search engines such as Google and Bing, as well as drive traffic to your site. Gone are the days where you just build a website, leave it, and forget it. You need to be active in SEO techniques to stay competitive, because chances are, your competitors are investing into SEO.
As you’ll learn in this article, SEO involves how the links on high ranking sites point to your website, to the words on your page, as well as the way your site is structured so that search engines can understand, crawl, and index it. It’s all about making your website search-engine friendly as well as user friendly for your site visitors.
Why does my website need SEO?
Although social media traffic and email campaigns contribute to website traffic, for most businesses, web traffic typically come from search engines – they provide targeted traffic from those typing in specific keywords. If search engines can’t find or index your content to their database, then you’re missing out on incredible opportunities to drive traffic to your website.
Words that are typed into the search boxes, also known as search queries, can be extremely valuable, since search engine traffic or lack thereof, can literally make or break a company’s success. Thus, investing into SEO can have a profound return on investment compared to other forms of marketing and advertising.
Why can’t the search engines figure out my website without SEO?
Although, the major search engines, Google and Bing, are smart, but they need help – They are constantly evolving with algorithm updates to help improve their technology to crawl the web and return higher quality content for its users. Not setting up your website the proper way can hide or even bury your website deep into the search results mitigating your search engine visibility. Having high quality content readily available to search engines will help boost your rankings so that those searching for your content can easily find it. The internet is getting increasingly competitive, and those that are performing SEO are reaping the rewards with increased targeted traffic to their website, which in turn can mean increased sales conversions.
Black hat SEO vs White hat SEO
A distinction worth mentioning is white hat vs black hat SEO. Black hat SEO is the “unethical” technique used to game or break search engine rules to obtain higher rankings. Some strategies include keyword stuffing, hidden text and links, link farming, and blog content spamming. Black hat SEO was the popular method of SEO, however, it has since been frowned upon by Google, and practicing black hat SEO can have your website not only penalized but also de-indexed by Google. A word of caution, avoid black hat SEO, or spamming links – Google’s Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird algorithm updates protects its search engine from spammers. Thus, it’s best to stay within the rules and guidelines of safe SEO practice.
White hat SEO is the technique that targets the human audience as opposed to a search engine (black hat SEO). Techniques used in white hat SEO include: using keywords, performing keyword research and analysis rewriting meta-tags, backlinking, writing high quality content for human readers (and not just for keywords) and link building. Those that practice white hat SEO can expect long-term benefits and results.
As mentioned by SEO guru, Rand Fishin at Moz in the article, 15 SEO Best Practices for Structuring URLs, “Don’t hurt your chances of earning a click (which CAN impact your rankings) by overdoing keyword matching/repetition in your URLs.”
Benefits of SEO
We’ve already touched upon the a few of the major benefits of SEO, however, here is a more in-depth list of the 10 main benefits of optimizing your site using best practices in SEO.
1. Lower cost to achieve massive results
In contrast to paid Google AdWords, organic listings through SEO are essentially free. Being listed at the top of Google means that you won’t need to pay for PPC (pay per click) or allocate an advertising budget, since the main benefit of SEO is that it keeps on giving!
2. Organic SEO placement benefits outweigh paid Ads
Ads are often seen as annoying and people are now installing ad blockers onto their browsers. By investing a bit of time, effort, and sometimes SEO costs (if you hire an SEO agency) then you can watch your website obtain consistent traffic, and the best part is that you won’t need to pay $10 for every time someone clicks on one of your paid AdWords ads. In addition, people searching on the net are becoming more tech savvy, and understand that the paid ads ranked at the first three spots on Google had to pay considerable capital and may not be ranking there necessarily based on having good quality content. Hence getting top spot on organic search engine results become that much more important.
3. Increased website traffic
To help maximize your SEO results, you can use Google Analytics and reporting tools to get a clear idea of your website visitors and site traffic. As soon as you begin strategic SEO efforts, you should start to see traffic increases. Using Analytics tools can help you track the number of site visitors, which part of the world is the traffic coming from, bounce rates, time spent on each page, demographics, mobile or desktop views, and much more.
4. Your competitors are doing it
More businesses and corporations are realizing the benefits of SEO, and are now investing heavily into tactical white hat SEO. Chances are, your competitors know this are already taking advantage of it. If your competitors have already hit the ground running before you with respect to SEO, they are most likely going to have more website traffic than you. Hiring an SEO company that specializes in executing on the best practices in SEO, may be exactly what your business needs to rank above your competitors.
5. First page results receive 60% of the clicks
The first position results typically receive 60% of the clicks, meaning that the remaining 40% will go to the second through to the millionth results on Google for the keyword used. Securing the top spot on Google is a smart way to gain thousands of site visitors, which could potentially mean millions in sales.
6. Better ROI (Return on Investment) than paid Ads
Having higher conversion rates, and thus higher return on investment (ROI) is a benefit of SEO that cannot be matched by other traditional forms or marketing. Google can bring you qualified traffic that are actually searching for your particular product or service. A hit from Google can be more valuable than from a hit from a paid Ad.
7. Take your business to the next level
SEO can literally bring thousands of visitors to your website everyday and can put your company in the position to expand and grow your business. Customers may also recommend your products and services when they search and visit your website. SEO is a great investment, and help take your business to the next level.
8. Millions of websites on the web, and SEO makes you stand out
With over 250 million websites on the web, it can be a daunting task to stand out from the crowd, especially if your company’s products or services is in a highly competitive marketspace. Using SEO can help your brand standout from the rest and boost your online visibility and sales.
9. Trust in Google – Higher brand credibility
People trust Google, and having your website listed organically at the top usually equates to a more reputable company. By doing performing tactical SEO, your website becomes the brand, and competitors will be working to try and de-throne your top positions on search engines.
10. The results are permanent
SEO results are permanent, which is a contrast to most of the other forms of marketing Although it’s important to upkeep and maintain the top 1st position ranking, SEO results don’t stop working when you stop paying for them.
For a more extensive list of SEO benefits, please refer to Search Engine Land’s article, The Ultimate List of Reasons Why You Need Search Engine Optimization or Forbe’s article, The Top 10 Reasons You Need SEO.
The 5 Pillars of Tactical SEO
I. SEO SITE AUDIT
II. ON-SITE SEO
III. LOCAL SEO
IV. ON-PAGE SEO
V. OFF-SITE SEO
I. SITE AUDIT
What is an SEO audit?
An SEO audit is the process of evaluating the search engine friendliness of a website. An SEO specialist will typically check the website against a checklist of what Google deems as good website architecture and structure as it relates to SEO best practices. The audit will list the errors and issues, as well as provide an action plan and a list of recommendations that is required to fix the site so that the performance of the website in search engines is improved. It’s important to keep your website up-to-date with the latest developments in SEO and to stay on top of the competition. Moz provides an excellent resource in an article called, How to Perform the World’s Greatest SEO Audit.
Why it’s important to regularly conduct an SEO audit on your website
With constant search engine algorithmic updates, the SEO landscape is continually evolving. What works today may not be as effective 6 months from now. It’s important to stay on top of your SEO game to ensure that your website is up-to-date with the latest developments.
II. ON-SITE SEO
On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing individual web pages on your website to rank higher as well as gain relevant visitor traffic on search engines. It includes optimizing HTML source code, content, sitemapping, and setting permalink structures. Off-site SEO (which will be described later in this article) on the other hand, refers to using links and external signals.
1. Page titles and keyword
Reduce page titles to 70 characters in length and include keywords once.
Add an H1 tag to each page and include a keyword that’s relevant to that page. Use only one H1 tag, and afterward, you can use multiple H2 to H6 tags.
3. Focus on link anchors (internal links)
Use internal links to establish site navigation, create content hierarchy and boost your ‘link juice’. Ensure that the hyperlink, anchor/keyword text and appearance are all optimized correctly.
4. Image Optimization
We can optimize 4 aspects of an image to ensure that it’s SEO friendly: (a) Filename: This is the name of the image file when saved on your computer. Before uploading the image to your site, ensure the file-name has your target keywords in it. As an example: home-painting-service-photo.JPG; (b) Title Text: This text will display when a user hovers over your image. It should include your keyword, and describe the image. (c) Alt-Text: This text will display if an image fails to load. This is especially useful for the visually impaired. Again, this should include the keyword and describe the image. (d) Size: Before uploading to a website, images should be compressed and properly sized. You can use a tool like Photoshop or a free web tool like Compress JPEG.
5. URL Structure
The URL structure is an important part of SEO. Use hyphens to ‘-‘separate the different parts of the URL.
6. Work on good site navigation
Making your site easy to navigate also helps to decrease bounce rate (a google ranking factor). Make sure that users can find exactly what they want and interact with all the visual cues and call to actions you present to them. It’s important that your website visitors can find exactly what they want and interact with all the visual cues and call to actions displayed on your website.
7. Dazzle with multimedia
Be sure to use engaging images, videos, and graphics, as it can help to reduce bounce rates and increase the time of time on site. Both are critical user interaction ranking factors.
Implement robots.txt to give instructions robots that how to crawl and index pages from the website.
9. Mobile Responsiveness & Load Times
Ensure that your website is mobile responsive on all platforms. Keep load times under 2-3 seconds. A longer load time will have a negative impact on your rankings.
Optimize website design with a great User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI). This can drastically decrease bounce rates, and help with your branding.
Be sure to also refer to Moz’s article, What is on-site SEO?.
III. ON-PAGE SEO
On-page SEO refers to optimizing content for target keywords within a single blog post, such as using proper keyword placements, headings, and writing high quality content.
1. Blog Post Title: 1 H1 Tag
Assuming you’ve already done your keyword research, this is one of the most important on-page SEO factors. You should try to use the targeted keyword or phrase toward the beginning of title (H1) tag, but if that’s not possible, make sure it’s at least somewhere in the title. And keep the title length to under 65 characters. It is the essential factor for keyword ranking. You should keep title between 50-60 characters and Meta description in between 150 to 160 characters.
3. Post Permalink Structure: URL Structure
Making sure your URL is displayed correctly is an important on-page metric. Again, you should use your target keyword in the URL, and avoid using special characters, symbols, brackets, commas, etc. within the actual URL. Use dashes to differentiate the strings in your URL structure. These are called “pretty” permalinks and are supported by most web browsers. https://www.domain.com/post-title-separated-with-dashes
3. Heading Tags
In WordPress, the title tag is set at H1. You don’t really need to use any more H1 tags anywhere in the article. One is enough. For section breaks, stick to H2 and H3 tags. Also, don’t use too many H2 or H3 tags as Google’s algorithms won’t like that.
4. Keyword Density
You should keep the keyword density around 1.5% percent with a mix of LSI keywords. Use your main keyword once in the first paragraph and again in the last paragraph. And use it in the content where it makes sense. 5 Online Free Keyword Density Calculator Tools: https://www.shoutmeloud.com/7-online-tools-to-analyze-keyword-density-seo.html
5. Meta Tags
Again, you should use your use targeted keyword in the meta description, but don’t keyword spam your description. While search engines pick up on keywords, it’s also important for users to click on the post. You need to write user-friendly meta descriptions that make sense and are related to your post. With regards to meta keywords, Google has made it clear that they don’t care about them. But some search engines, like Bing, may still care a little.
Image Optimization does help a lot in driving traffic from image searches. Keywords in the “image title” and the “alt text” help to make your blog post more focused and targeted. But more important than that: Images create engagement. But there’s one very important point to note. Large images will slow down your site, and having a slow loading site will decrease your Google rank.
7. Word Count Per Post
Blog posts that don’t have a lot of words typically don’t perform well on search engines. That’s because they’re usually seen as being “less informative”. Suggestion: Analyze other posts for your target keyword and see how many words they have. While there is no “official” count, longer posts tend to rank better because there is typically more information there. For instance, this post is over 2,000 words.
8. Internal Linking
Interlinking of blog posts will help your blog readers spend more time on your blog, and it will also help pass page rank to other pages of your site. When interlinking, try to use a keyword as the anchor text, but be very careful not to overdo it. Internal links that are relevant to the original post show search engines that you are providing extra information beyond what is being displayed in the content.
9. External Linking
Apart from linking to your own blog posts, it is a great idea to link out to external websites as well. Again, only do this if the information on the external website is relevant to the information in your post. While linking out to external websites, you should link to trusted websites only. And if you have doubts about the authority or popularity of a website, you can use a nofollow tag to avoid passing your link juice to potentially bad sites. But somewhere authoritative like Wikipedia, or CNN, or a major player in your niche, will not only be trustworthy, they’ll likely have relevant content that your readers will love.
10. Write Engaging Content
If you’re trying to get by with low-quality content and “trick” search engines, you will surely fail. Your post should be a complete manual for that keyword. You should learn how to engage your audience in a way that works for them. Try asking your readers questions and answering them. Understand what they want to read, and then write that. If you are unable to write engaging content, people will not spend much time on your blog, your bounce rate will increase, and your rankings will plummet.
As mentioned by Sujan Patel, Co-founder of WebProfits, in the article, Best SEO Practices to Dominate In 2017, “The only way to reliably build links is to create amazing content, but the standard for ‘amazing content’ gets higher and higher every year. Now, the way people will make their content stand out enough to earn links will be to incorporate design and formatting directly into the content.”
Two other great resources to learn more about on-page SEO are Backlinko’s article, On-Page SEO: Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimized Page (2017 Update) and Search Engine Journal’s article, On Page SEO – Everything You Need to Know.
IV. LOCAL SEO
Local SEO is a technique that is focused on providing results that are relevant to a searcher based on their current location. If I search for ‘best sushi restaurant’, Google would provide results that are nearest to me. Optimizing for Local SEO will help enable your business to rank for keyword + location. Local SEO is an effective way to market your business online – It helps businesses promote their products and services to local customers
1. Google My Business
Google processes over 3.5 billion searches per day, thus, if you’re not listed on Google, you’re missing out on a massive opportunity of potential new business. Google My Business is an amazing marketing platform for businesses. Be found on Google Maps to help your customers find directions to your business. To list your business on Google My Business, simply go to Google My Business and type your business name and address into the search bar.
2. Citations and Social Profiles
A citation is an online mention of your business with all or some of your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number) information. They typically take the form of a local listing in an online directory such as Yellow Pages, Foursquare, 411, and Yelp. The more often your business information is found on the web with consistent information, the higher your visibility it will be in local search. A social profile is like next level version of a citation in that it is often more trustworthy and customizable. Examples of social profiles include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
3. Customers Reviews
Over 92 percent of consumers read online reviews to find local businesses and services and 60 percent of consumers judge a local business on its overall star rating with 43 percent find 3 out of 5 stars to be the minimum rating before consulting with that business. With so many people researching before making a purchase as well as looking into online reviews for business recommendations, it is vital to get positive reviews.
In general, the more 5-star reviews your business has, the more online exposure it will receive. To obtain positive reviews, you’ll need to focus on creating amazing customer experiences.
For more on local SEO, be sure to also check out Moz’s article, Local SEO, and Search Engine Land’s Local SEO: How To Rank Your Local Business.
V. OFF-SITE SEO
Off-site SEO refers to activities that are performed outside of your website. The benefits of off-site SEO include increased rankings in SERPS (Search Engine Results Page), which can result in increased website traffic; increased page rank; more exposure which gets more site visits, social mentions, and links.
1. Link building
Link building is the most effective and popular method of off-page SEO. Social media bookmarking is also a great strategy for link building.
2. Blog Writing
Guest blogging is a great way to gain backlinks to your website, provided that you don’t overdo it, and you’re not just doing it for the backlinks.
3. Social Media
A great way to link-build. Social media mentions are beginning to gain ground as ranking factors. Proper configuration of social media profiles can also boost SEO. Social bookmarking can be done using websites such as reddit.com, stumbleupon.com, scoop.it, and Delicious.
4. Email Marketing
Email marketing is an effective way to drive SEO results. Focus on inbound links, content promotion, on-site engagement, drive to RSS, reputation building and brand recognition, and social media engagement.
5. Live Videos: Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and YouTube Live
Live streaming is extremely popular for businesses to directly connect with followers. Better brand exposure and richer content, and creating urgency are all benefits of using live streaming in your marketing arsenal. There are multiple platforms that can be used, both Facebook and YouTube are continually innovating and improving their live streaming features and capabilities.
6. YouTube Ads
YouTube has more than 1 billion unique users every month. YouTube ads is in the form of Pay Per Click advertising through Google AdWords for Video. You’ll be able to precisely target your ideal customers.
7. LinkedIn Ads
Regardless of what industry that you’re in, your business audience is most likely on LinkedIn. With LinkedIn ads, you’re able to increase your visibility, and improve the know, like, and trust factor.
8. Facebook Ads
Facebook has a strong commitment to continued innovation, such as chatbot messengers. It is the top social media advertising platform. High conversions on mobile, call-to-action button options, data capture, are all advantages of creating targeted Facebook Ads.
To learn more about off-site SEO, be sure to also check out Neil Patel’s article, The Ultimate Guide to Off-Page SEO.
By using the most current Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies, you can drastically increase the visibility of your website in web search engine’s organic results. Times have changed since the old days of jamming and spamming links. Using best practices in SEO is advantageous for companies that want to appear on the coveted first page and first position of Google, increasing site visitor traffic and increasing conversions and sales revenues.
This post was published by Donald Kim at Optimized Webmedia. Optimized Webmedia is a customer centric, 360° Digital Marketing agency, specializing in SEO, AdWords, Content Writing, Social Media Marketing, and Website Design. To learn how Optimized Webmedia can help optimize your website to attract more visitors, book a free consultation and ask for our free SEO Site Audit.